Pope begins purge in Chile as bishop resigns over abuse scandal

Pope accepts resignation of three bishops over Chile sexual abuse scandal

Barros denied the allegations, but he joined Chilean 30 active bishops who have recently suggested to the Pope to resign.

Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno was accused of covering up the acts of a notorious abuser, and the pope enraged thousands of Catholics in Chile when he appointed Barros as bishop in 2015.

"We have come to ask forgiveness" from the victims on behalf of Pope Francis, said Bertomeu as they arrived in Santiago.

Despite a strong Catholic tradition, Chile is witnessing a growing rift between the people and the Church, deepened by the string of sexual abuse scandals.

Barros had always been accused of witnessing and covering up the sexual abuse of minors by a priest who had once mentored him.

Pope Francis remains in the spotlight, following recent comments about climate change with pleads to oil executives that call for clean fuel. Of the three, only the 61-year-old Barros is below the retirement age of 75.

"Today begins a new day for the Catholic Church in Chile and hopefully the world", Juan Carlos Cruz, the key witness in the abuse case, said on Twitter.

After he returned to the Vatican from that trip, Francis sent the Church's top sex crimes expert to Chile, to investigate further.

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The letter - handed to the bishops at the start of their meetings with Francis - evokes "crimes" and "painful and shameful sexual abuse of minors, abuses of power and conscience by ministers of the Church".

Bishop Gonzalo Duarte of Valparaiso, whose resignation was also accepted Monday, has been accused by parishioners of covering up abuse by former seminarians in his diocese, charges that he has rejected.

The acceptance is part of the Church's ongoing narrative in how it has handled its global clergy sex abuse crisis that in this case brought a popular pontiff face-to-face with involved bishops, protesters, victims as well as destroyed documents on his home continent.

Francis has apologised to the victims and admitted he had made "grave mistakes" after reading a 2,300-page report on abuses in Chile.

Then, during a visit to the country in January, Francis upset victims by describing claims of a cover-up accusing Bishop Barros as "calumny", sparking a controversy that called into question his handling of the sexual abuse scandal.

The Pope's move comes after he received two groups of victims of Fernando Karadima at the Vatican.

The Catholic Church's upcoming big family rally in Ireland will feature workshops on hot-button issues facing Catholic families, including priestly sexual abuse, weathering divorce and ministering to lesbian and gay faithful.

"I told him that Barros was watching us when we were abused, I think that's clear to him now", Juan Carlos Cruz said.

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